McCann Commentary: Schools Desperately Need Bus Drivers

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By Nathan McCann / Superintendent Ridgefield

Anyone who has kept abreast of the news is undoubtedly aware that the current labor shortage creates challenges in almost every industry and profession. Without enough workers for everyone, restaurants have reduced their hours of operation, veterinary offices cannot meet the demand for pet care, and manufacturers of all kinds are in desperate need of workers to help fill. supply chain gaps.

Unfortunately, this labor shortage is also creating huge challenges for school districts. Although there are significant shortages of teachers and substitutes, no area has been more affected than bus transportation. To state the obvious, bus drivers are essential for schools to operate efficiently.

Ridgefield School District student transportation service provider KWRL Transportation – a co-op serving Kalama, Woodland, Ridgefield and La Center school districts – has desperately tried to hire and train additional drivers to cover the routes of buses in North Clark County. Everything has been put on the bridge at the cooperative, with drivers doubling their usual routes (which unfortunately leads to delays on the buses), joined by administrators, office staff and mechanics, removed from their usual duties to be able to drive buses. I deeply admire and appreciate this incredible display of commitment to purpose and teamwork. It’s inspiring.

Unfortunately, it is both unsustainable and insufficient to meet demand. We know that everyone – parents, teachers, volunteers and the general public – is scattered right now. And we know that we are far from alone in the face of these challenges. The driver shortage is nationwide and affects trucking companies and public transportation, as well as school buses. Although we are not the only ones to solve this problem, we are always asking for your help.

If you are looking for work or considering a career change, we encourage you to apply to become a school bus driver. We find that serving students and helping them get to school safely and on time every day is an extremely rewarding way of earning a living and a true service to the community. School bus drivers are more than employees. They are the ambassadors of the school district. Drivers are the first school employees students see in the morning and the last they see every afternoon or evening. These essential team members are responsible for getting students to and back from school safely every day, and they have a real impact on students’ lives and the community at large.

How? ‘Or’ What? Let’s start with the most important aspect: student safety.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, students are nearly 70 times more likely to arrive safely on a school bus than to travel by car. Having enough drivers to operate all of our routes shortens the distances and time students spend on buses. This encourages more families to choose bus transportation, which helps reduce traffic congestion. Sports and extracurricular activities are an integral part of the educational experience. For many of us, the times we spent competing against other schools are among our fondest memories. We want to be able to provide transportation services for these events. Finally, when we can employ a full team of drivers, we operate more balanced routes, allowing drivers to effectively manage student driving and foster an improved bus climate and culture. This is good practice for drivers and helps them develop positive and respectful relationships with each student.

School district transportation departments are putting in place strong bonuses and hiring incentives. With a salary starting at $ 23.37 an hour at KWRL, paid CDL training, and eligibility for public benefits, there are many aspects that make it a rewarding job. Please visit www.KWRL.org and look in the “Job Opportunities” section for links to apply for open positions.

Thanks and stay #RidgefieldResilient.


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